As the Sunni insurgents ISIS are making their advance towards the capital Baghdad US President Barack Obama has said that his administration is still evaluating military options.
President Obama in his nationally televised address categorically stated that he has now authorised the US military to launch air strikes against ISIS militants in Iraq.Reuters

US President Barack Obama's superhero-like announcement that he has authorised air strikes to save Iraqis battered by the relentless offensive of Islamic State militants has possibly more to it than meets the eye.

Three years after American troops left Iraq, and after repeated denial of any intent to start military operation in the strife-torn country, Obama said "America is coming to help' and that he had the mandate to stop a 'genocide.'

The move is definitely a reversal of policy -- Obama's main campaign plank was to pull out troops from Iraq; his administration fiercely resisted pleas to intervene in the Libya crisis, and then in the worse humanitarian crisis spawned by the Syrian war.

Moreover, the president's declaration of intent to step back into the quicksands of Iraq smacks of an opportunistic positioning.  

Obama's announcement of another military intervention in Iraq, which he said was at the behest of the Iraqi government, is being viewed suspiciously.

The obvious question his administration faces is why the president chose to keep away from the Syrian civil war, which has been raging for three years and claimed many thousands more lives than in Iraq conflict.

Even after a shocking and dramatic revelation of photos by a Syrian military photographer of the degree of torture and suffering in Syria inflicted by the ruling Assad regime last week, the US has not yet stepped up to help the Syrian civilians, the Middle East Monitor had reported.

The ISIS militants themselves are creating a presence in Syria and threatening minorities living there, much like in Iraq that has caught the American attention.

While the United States has pumped in humanitarian aid in the war-ravaged Syria, with the White House announcing $500 million in aid to moderate Syrian rebels in June, it has stopped short of military intervention.

According to a BBC reporter, the main aim of the US intervention in Iraq is 'the protection of US assets and embassy personnel in Iraq and to bring relief to civilians'. The United States had sent up to 300 military advisers to Iraq over the last two months to help the Iraqi forces combat the militants.

Justifying his decision to allow airstrikes in Iraq, Obama said on Thursday: "The terrorists have neared the city of Irbil where American diplomats serve in our consulate and where American military personnel are situated. The military will take targeted strikes on ISIS convoys should they move towards the city. We will also provide urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces to combat the militants."

The New York Times reported that any military intervention by America will only 'worsen the situation'.

It warns that 'any US military action' will go beyond just 'downgrading a terrorist organisation' to become a 'full-fledged participant in a sectarian civil war'. However, in another article, a New York Times writer has argued that military airstrikes should not be construed as taking sides in a war between Sunnis and Shiites but as support to the minorities in Iraq.

While Obama has assured that the military intervention will in no way be a repeat of the Iraq War that started in 2003 and ended almost nine years later in 2011, it should be noted that the Bush administration had also never declared war on Iraq but had said that the US was "entering the conflict reluctantly...people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder".

The Islamic State's takeover of oil fields in Iraq could also be a reason for American concern as it could affect American national interest, with Obama himself admitting to it in June.

He had said, "It is in our national security interests not to see an all-out civil war inside of Iraq, not just for humanitarian reasons, but because that ultimately can be destabilizing throughout the region, and in addition to having strong allies there that we are committed to protecting, obviously, issues like energy and global energy markets continues to be important," according to a transcript published by The Washington Post